Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


How to Outline Your Script

Thursday night one of my mentees called me up. He was having problems with his script. He asked if I would be willing to write the next draft and get it to him by Friday morning.

I agreed to do so.

I had already read a version of the script, and had talked with him about his story before. I asked a few more clarifying questions about what he wanted from this version, and I set to work.

This is what I did:

It really doesn't matter what tools you use to accomplish these steps, but Celtx is an incredibly powerful (and free) one. So, I'll be working through it in here.

First: Figure out your story.

Don't worry about details of how the story works, how you're going to make it "original", or what funny one-liners you're going to include. Just answer the question: What is your story about?

Let's write a story about a man who loses his favorite golf ball.

Second: Figure out the major plot points.

Again, nothing about the script, just the story. What happens?

  • A man loves his yellow golf ball, so he never uses it on the range.
  • He goes to play golf, but realizes he doesn't have normal balls so takes his yellow one.
  • Lightly taps it, but it goes flying into the lake.
  • Tries to get it back.
  • A dog brings it to him at the end.
  • Takes the dog home.

Third: Write up the cards.

Now you begin to tell the tale, scene by scene.

Again, this isn't about the story itself, you're just telling how one moment moves to the next. This is where you bust out your notecards.

Include where the scene will take place, and what happens. Nothing more.

Celtx Cards

At this point, I've realized that the dog needs to be a much bigger character. And so the story has changed. This is the story of a man and a dog who get reconciled through a yellow golf ball.

Not a problem, I can now go back, easily add in the plot points involving the dog, and add a few more cards to the story.

And then, and only then, when I am convinced I've figured out the story I want to tell do I actually sit down to write the script.

When I first started writing scripts, I would just sit down and write. I really liked the scripts, but there were always huge problems with the story.

So, get the story right first and save yourself the frustration.

Using this method, I had written a new script for my mentee in about an hour. But I could only do that because I knew the story I was telling.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

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